Education Expert Michelle Rhee Criticized for Speaking at Education-Related Conference


In June, former D.C. school chief Michelle Rhee will speak at a conference of for-profit colleges in Las Vegas.

There are a lot of perfectly good reasons to talk smack about the record of for-profit schools—many suffer from low graduation rates and high debt burdens, nearly all are powered by billions of taxpayer dollars.

But the Washington Monthly has gone into full panty-bunching red alert over former public official and current head of an advocacy organization accepting a speaking gig. The thrust of the argument seems to be that this is the smoking gun we have all been waiting for: Rhee, an education reformer, is willing take money to tell a bunch of other people who work in the same industry what she thinks. Which is this, by the way:

I plan to tell the for-profit colleges that they need to do a better job of making sure their students are getting a good education, are graduating with meaningful degrees, and are able to do so without being saddled with unreasonable debt.

But the problems aren't just academic. Some of these schools seem to be engaged in downright malicious behavior, cravenly taking advantage of students trying to get a better education and a better job. An investigation by the Government Accountability Office in 2010 looked into recruiting practices at 15 for-profit colleges and found outright cases of fraud at four. Moreover, they found that officials at every single one of the colleges investigated lied or misrepresented the programs offered in order to convince students to enroll. That's wrong, and I plan to tell them so. These schools need to focus on getting the best outcomes for their students—the people relying on and trusting these schools to provide a high-quality education.

And here's the supposed gotcha, summed up by David Halperin:

"She staked her career on the concept of shutting down underperforming, bad schools," Halperin writes. "And now she will address a room full of them."

She has spent her career addressing rooms full of underperforming bad schools—most of them in her jurisdiction in D.C.—because she had some (good) ideas about how to make them better. The same will presumably be true in Vegas.

More me on Rhee.

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  1. I plan to tell the for-profit colleges that they need to do a better job of making sure their students are getting a good education, are graduating with meaningful degrees, and are able to do so without being saddled with unreasonable debt.

    What a fucking outrage. Burn the witch.

    1. While I hate Rhee and I think that for-profit colleges have a right to exist and do what they do, they do NOT have the right to lie to people and tell them that they are accredited and make up BS words to describe their “accreditation” to trick people into going there and thinking they are at a real college/university. While I agree they can charge 15k a semester for a few hours of online courses, they should NOT be allowed to say the student is earning a “Bachelor’s Degree of _________” when they are un-accredited. That is simply fraud, and there are PLENTY of for-profits that engage in this type of behavior or say things like “BS equivalent.”

  2. Love the phrase “full panty-bunching red alert.”

    1. Sexism. Straight up.

  3. But the problems aren’t just academic. Some of these schools seem to be engaged in downright malicious behavior, cravenly taking advantage of students trying to get a better education and a better job.

    Fuck you Rhee. Having seen the success of the “predatory lending” meme, you seek to cash in by inventing “predatory educating”? Suck a syphilitic chancre laden dick.

    God forbid prospective students do research on the institution their applying for. Can’t have that.

    1. *they’re

    2. Fraud charges from the GAO are pretty serious. I don’t see how highlighting this is a bad thing.

      The “Predatory Lending” argument is not an attack on fraud. It’s a elitist argument based on protecting the innocent idiots that populate our society. It wasn’t an argument based on eliminating fraud.

      1. Yes. However, many of those “predatory” lenders were accused of fraud, yes?

        1. By an official report of the GAO?

          Sure, the GAO is not purely non-political. But you can’t compare them to most of the commentariat who had a bone to pick to anyone who would dare offer a payday loan along with a sufficient profit margin to cover the risk.

          I think the fraud charges by the GAO are pretty serious.

        2. Many of those “Predatory” lenders committed fraud. Many of the “Victims” also committed fraud. What’s your point, HM? This is an entirely different issue.

    3. Just because most people called Nazis are not in fact Nazis, doesn’t mean Nazis don’t exist.

      Same with predatory lending. It does occur.

  4. Michelle Rhee is not poor. She’s being paid $50,000* to tell the the for-profits to behave themselves. Would she do the same for the NEA? If she did take a $50,000 speaking fee from the NEA, wouldn’t people laugh at her?

    *Katie M-W forgot to include this in her story. An oversight, I’m sure.

    1. STFU, Anal.

    2. meh. I sometimes used to get $5-$10K to speak @ fairly lowbrow Consumer Products conferences…. and who the hell am I? 🙂 I’d think someone with serious credentials should expect a little baksheesh for drawing paying attendees. Getting paid to speak @ conferences isn’t exactly a massive conflict-of-interest type thing.

      Also, I really can’t see why anyone hates on Michelle Rhee. She tried to reform what is likely the most corrupt and dysfunctional school system in America. Pretty thankless job if you ask me. If I were her I’d have called it quits and gone into some decent-paying consulting work too.

      And BTW – KMW didn’t really “leave the detail out”. She specifically said, “Rhee, an education reformer, is willing take money”… Is the amount what is so damning, really? I think that’s kind of lame.

      FWIW, a interesting organization I know called “NFTE” (pronounced, “nifty” – the “National Foundation(?) for Teaching Entrepreneurship”) did their annual conference last year, and I believe the keynote speaker was Magic Johnson. I will guess he probably got more than $50K. THAT BASTARD!! He probably helped raise a million+$ though.

      1. You have to ask why Rhee draws the hate? Maybe you need to address that to Marion Barry.

    3. She had a full time job telling the NEA to behave itself, Alan. Do you ever say anything that’s not a logical fallacy?

    4. Do you apply this logic to everyone who is paid to give speeches?

      If not, STFU.

    5. Would she do the same for the NEA?

      She tried to do the same for the NEA and was the subject of the usual hatred one expects from telling leftists that their ways don’t work. The DC schools were a clusterfuck before she showed up, had some marginal improvement during her tenure, and have resumed their place among America’s education bottom-feeders. The NEA is fundamentally opposed to anything that would improve quality because it means the union would have to admit it is carrying a lot of deadwood.

    6. Gee, Alan, you offer an irrelevancy (She’s not poor), followed by a hypothetical (would people laugh at her), and presume to be taken seriously?
      What is it you do for a living?

  5. More education heresy @ the WaPo =…..story.html

    Solution for all schools? BIBLICAL FLOOD TO DESTROY THEM ALL

    1. Would quote the piece, but keep getting @#(!(@# by the “50 character limit”-blocker thing.

      Basically, they point out that new orleans schools are much better now, mainly because of a) de-unionization, b) increased competition, c) state/city getting out of setting ‘standards’/curricula, etc, letting each determine its priorities, and of course, d)… well, the flood DID send most of the dumbest and most violent and poorest-performing students out to Baton Rouge & Texas and elsewhere, never to return… so, well, much of the statistical ‘improvement’ is partly just skimming out the worst-performers.

      The comments, as one would expect, are largely an excoriation of this balderdash as RIGHT WING CORPORATE PROPAGANDA!!… (which… unsurprisingly…. one commenter, “LABORLAWYER” leads the pitchfork-wielding crowd…. LOL. Gotta give em credit for an honest handle, at least)

      1. so what you saying is, public schools need more skimming, like a leafy swimming pool.

        1. Actually no = that’s the Public Employee counter-argument about why the NO school-systems have “improved” so much… (debate-worthy, to be sure)

          The more interesting argument is that ‘really shitty public school systems CAN improve’! (unfortunately, in the example, apparently that improvement comes about only with *the entire destruction of the old-order*, which is appealing, but almost impossible to achieve sans Biblical Deluge) The money shot is this particular quote –

          … Move away, he wrote, from a centralized bureaucracy and improve the quality and numberof charter schools.””

  6. Hey Washington Monthly: It’s fucking different because the schools she was in charge of are public schools in one of the worst districts in America. Fucking idiots.

  7. I’m guessing you like your sexism on the rocks with a wedge of lime?

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